IDF’s ethics guru slams High Court ban on human shields

Asa Kasher endorses military court conviction of two Givati soldiers, but says ‘neighbor procedure’ can sometimes save lives.

October 6, 2010 02:21
2 minute read.
Givati soldiers in military court

Soldiers in Court 311. (photo credit: Channel 10)


Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analysis from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief


Sunday’s highly publicized military court conviction of two Givati soldiers for using a Palestinian boy as a human shield should serve as an opportunity to contest the Supreme Court’s sweeping prohibition of such behavior, formally known in the IDF as “neighbor procedure,” Prof. Asa Kasher, author of the IDF’s code of ethics, said Tuesday.

“What those two soldiers did was wrong,” said Kasher in a telephone interview, endorsing the military court ruling. “But there are situations in which the use of the enemy’s civilian population to defuse a potentially explosive situation is not only ethically permissible, it also saves lives.”

2 soldiers convicted of using boy as human shield
Editorial: Ethics in the war zone
Human shields and ‘Goldstone scapegoats’

In many instances of confrontation between IDF forces and a terror suspect who has barricaded him or herself inside a building, neighbors who are either family from the same clan or friends can peacefully and effectively neutralize the situation, Kasher explained.

Neighbors often have a vested interest in preventing the IDF from destroying the building where the suspect is hiding because they live in the same building; relatives or loved ones also have a desire to save the terrorist’s life, Kasher explained.

“If they volunteer to do so of their own free will they should be allowed to,” said Kasher.

On Sunday the IDF Southern Command’s Military Court ruled that two Givati Division soldiers acted inappropriately when they ordered a Palestinian boy to open bags suspected of containing bombs during Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip last year. The two staff sergeants face up to a three-year prison sentence.

The IDF uses the term “neighbor procedure” to describe the use of the enemy’s civilian population to perform duties normally performed by IDF soldiers.

In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that the neighbor procedure was unlawful according to international law.

Then chief justice Aharon Barak argued that there was a ban on using residents as part of the occupying army’s military effort and added that “as a rule, [the local resident] is not allowed to renounce his rights as accorded by humanitarian law in Clause 8 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

This was true even if cooperation was offered for a desired end, such as bringing about a peaceful end to a potentially violent confrontation.

Kasher, a professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv University who first drafted “The Spirit of the IDF” (Ruach Tzahal) in 1994 and helped update the moral code in 2001, is also the co-author with Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin of “11 Principles for Fighting Terrorism,” which is used to educate officers on the IDF’s rules of engagement.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

Jisr az-Zarq
April 3, 2014
Residents of Jisr az-Zarqa beckon Israel Trail hikers to enjoy their town


Cookie Settings